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Morning Memo: McCrory administration slanted Medicaid report

McCRORY BOOED IN HIS HOMETOWN: For his 69th birthday party, Charlotte attorney Bill Diehl rented out The Fillmore at the N.C. Music Factory, hired rockers Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and invited around 400 of his closest friends, Jim Morrill reports. Among them: Gov. Pat McCrory.

When the band took a break, Diehl grabbed a mic and introduced McCrory, who was greeted with a loud smattering of boos. It wasn't the first time the former Charlotte mayor -- elected and re-elected seven times -- has heard boo birds in his hometown. In Charlotte, at least, the popular mayor has been a less popular governor. This summer he appeared at a concert at the Bechtler Museum. When he was formally introduced, many in the audience booed.

MUST-READ: For months, members of the McCrory administration have maintained that the state’s Medicaid program is "broken." But in the first of a two-part investigation, North Carolina Health News shows McCrory officials sat on information that would have depicted the state’s much-lauded Medicaid program in a better light. Read it here.

***More from the N.C. Health News story and an important notice to readers below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

North Carolina's GOP Senate candidate will accept nomination at a casino

UPDATED: Picture this: North Carolina's Republican U.S. Senate candidate accepting the party's nomination at a casino. And what if that candidate is Mark Harris, the outgoing president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina?

It's a possibility. The N.C. Republican Party announced it will hold its 2014 state convention at the Harrah's Cherokee Casino and Hotel in the far western part of the state.

Even if it's not Harris who wins the nomination, the optics are less than ideal. Republican lawmakers were deeply divided in 2012 on whether to allow the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to expand gambling at the casino to include slot machines and live table games, such as blackjack and roulette. It's the most high-profile bill approved in the House -- where U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis presided -- that a majority of Republicans opposed.

Morning Memo: Harris stakes his ground; GOP lawmaker presses McCrory

HARRIS DECLARES HE'S THE SOCIAL CONSERVATIVE IN THE RACE: The Rev. Mark Harris, a leading social conservative, entered the North Carolina Senate race Wednesday, setting up a potential insider/outsider GOP primary showdown next May with House Speaker Thom Tillis.

Harris, the outgoing president of the state Baptist Convention, said he would campaign as a staunch advocate for lowering taxes, reducing government, ending Obamacare and protecting gun rights, that he would back measures that he believes would improve “traditional moral values.” Read more here.

GOP SENATOR SAYS McCRORY ADMINISTRATION IS BREAKING THE LAW: A high-ranking Republican state senator said Wednesday that Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration is flouting the law. Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, complained that McCrory hasn’t named an independent Unemployment Review Board to review decisions on unemployment benefits made by the state Division of Employment Security. Rucho’s remarks came during a legislative committee meeting where lawmakers were questioning Dale Folwell, the agency’s head. Read more here.

***Read more on the Harris announcement and a North Carolina political roundup below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Three strikes for HHS secretary; NC unemployment now nation's 3rd worst

THREE STRIKES FOR SECRETARY WOS: The controversy about high salaries for two inexperienced aides at the Department of Health and Human Services is only the latest trouble for Secretary Aldona Wos. (See more on the story below.) It's the third major controversy at the agency in the eight months since Wos, a major Republican donor and former physcian, took the helm. In February, Wos hired a director for the agency's childrens division who never took the job amid a firestorm of criticism. And in May, Wos blamed the state's decision not to expand Medicaid on the state's Democratic insurance commissioner -- not the Republican legislature and her boss, Gov. Pat McCrory. The distractions for the McCrory administration are related to communications and policy -- the two areas the high-paid staffers are charged with managing.

THE BIG STORY -- N.C. UNEMPLOYMENT NOW 3rd WORST IN THE NATION: The unemployment rate in North Carolina inched higher in July, the first uptick in the closely watched economic indicator since January. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 8.9 percent last month, according to data released Monday by the state Department of Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division.

Although the jobless rate was seven-tenths of a percentage point lower than it was a year ago, North Carolina’s unemployment rate is tied with Rhode Island for the third-worst in the nation. Only Illinois, at 9.2 percent, and Nevada, where the unemployment rate is 9.5 percent, have higher unemployment rates. It represents a fall from fifth worst just a month ago.

***More on the state's unemployment rate and the latest DHHS controversy below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Todd Poole named N.C. GOP executive director

Congresswoman Virginia Foxx's former chief of staff is taking the helm at the N.C. Republican Party.

Todd Poole will serve as executive director, managing the day-to-day party activities and staff for GOP Chairman Claude Pope.

Poole is a Hickory native who recently opened his own political consulting firm, Red Dome Group. Most recently her served on Foxx's staff and previously worked as an aide to then-Congressman Richard Burr. He also worked in North Carolina on the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004.

TV book host, columnist D.G. Martin apologizes for Nazi references

TV host and columnist D.G. Martin has apologized for a column he wrote that offended state Republican leaders.

The state Republican Party wants UNC-TV to suspend longtime literary program host Martin and evaluate its relationship with him over a recent newspaper column he wrote invoking comparisons between Nazi Germany and the General Assembly.

Martin wrote in a column that appears in newspapers around the state quoting from a recent bestseller by Erik Larson, “In the Garden of Beasts,” that refers to comments by Joseph Goebbels. “Now our party is in charge and they are free again,” Goebbels is quoted as saying. “When a man has been in jail for twelve years and he is suddenly freed, in his joy he may do something irrational, perhaps even brutal.”

To which Martin added the question, “In our state, too?”

GOP Chairman Claude Pope issued a statement calling the column “inexcusable, disgusting and shameful.” Pope refers to Martin as a “left-wing zealot who is parading as a television host in front of dozens of viewers to take his next job alongside Rachel Maddow on MSNBC.”

The newspaper column and the TV program are unrelated ventures.

Martin, meanwhile, had this to say to Dome: “I think I understand their point. I am very sorry that I offended some people and I apologize.”

Country club fundraiser for House Republicans

The N.C. Republican House Caucus Leadership fund will be raising money at the Carolina Country Club next month.

The Aug. 27 shindig is billed as a reception honoring the GOP House caucus. Chipping in $10,000 will get you 12 tickets to the VIP and general receptions, with less expensive options available down to $150 single tickets.

No word on who the VIPs are, but it wouldn’t be surprising if U.S. Senate candidate and House Speaker Thom Tillis was among them. The leadership fund is part of the N.C. Republican Party.

Tillis has raised almost $278,000 in his bid to become the Republican nominee to challenge Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. There is another $150,000 in his state campaign account.

State Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger – who has not yet committed to the race – has raised $475,000 in his state account.

Hagan raised just over $2 million this most recent quarter, for a total of $3.7 million raised so far this year. She has $4.2 million cash on hand.

Morning Memo: McCrory's approval rating sinks, questions remain in tax deal

ALERT: McCRORY'S APPROVAL RATING TUMBLES: For the first time in his term, more voters disapprove of Gov. Pat McCrory than support him, according to the latest Public Policy Polling survey. The Democratic firm found 40 percent approve of the job McCrory is doing and 49 percent disapprove. It's a significant shift from a month ago when PPP put the Republican governor's approval rating at 45 percent with 39 percent disapproval. (Read more on Dome later this morning.)

REPUBLICANS RALLY TO THANK LAWMAKERS: Moral Monday protesters aren’t the only ones rallying on Halifax Mall this week. The N.C. Republican Party has asked conservatives to gather at 5 p.m. Tuesday for “Thankful Tuesday,” a meeting planned by a coalition of groups to thank legislators for their work. The event will also allow for networking between Republicans and supporters. It isn’t a counter-protest to Moral Mondays, the left-leaning demonstrations that have garnered national attention for the past 10 weeks, said Mike Rusher, the state GOP’s chief of staff. “We want to tell our state legislators that we’re basically proud of what they’re doing,” said Joe Taylor, a member of the Moccasin Creek Minutemen, a conservative group that is helping to host the event. “They catch a lot of grief on Monday.” Read more here.

***In the Dome Morning Memo below: three big questions for the tax deal, an unusual new name for House Speaker Thom Tillis and more North Carolina political news.***

Morning Memo: As storm approaches, House set for major tax vote

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: As a tropical storm hits Raleigh, the House will meet in its first full Friday session this year to debate a tax bill that represents one of the most expansive policy changes in decades. At the same time, appropriation subcommittees will meet to roll out the House budget, meeting before and after session. The Senate adjourned until Monday. The House action precedes what is expected to be a busy time next week in Raleigh with budget and taxes, among dozens of other bills, moving quickly as the legislature nears adjournment toward the end of the month. Top GOP lawmakers will rush from the statehouse to Charlotte for the state Republican Party convention. Gov. Pat McCrory will hold a reception at the convention this evening.

NEW NUMBERS SHOW TAX BILLS AFFECTS: The median North Carolina family would get a modest tax break while wealthy taxpayers may see a significant cut under a sweeping bill primed for a landmark House vote Friday. (Read more below.)

***Special Friday Dome Morning Memo edition. Read more about the tax plan on the House floor below and a recap from President Barack Obama's visit.***

Morning Memo: Senate rolls out tax plan; ALEC keeps clout in North Carolina

SENATE LEADERS TO PITCH TAX PLAN: The long-awaited plan to overhaul the state's tax system will debut Tuesday. Senate Republicans want to slash the personal income tax from the highest 7.75 percent rate to 4.5 percent over three years and drop the corporate income tax from 6.9 percent to 6 percent.

In a video previewing a 12:30 p.m. announcement, Senate leader Phil Berger called it a $1 billion tax cut -- the largest in state history. The question is how to pay for it and the details are less clear, but Berger said it will involved taxing a range of services from haircuts to auto mechanics. (More details below.)

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: Taxes won't take all the air from the N.C. General Assembly today. In committees, the governor's transportation plan gets a final hearing before going to the full House; a health committee considers a measure to limit what a doctor can do about sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and birth control without parental consent; and Senate lawmakers will consider (but not vote on) a proposal to allow armed guards in elementary schools who aren't necessarily law enforcement officers.

The controversial gun bill gets a third reading on the House floor and the Senate will consider a controversial state charter school bill similar to ALEC-sponsored legislation. (More on ALEC below.) Gov. Pat McCrory -- who promised to hold regular media availability -- will not take questions after the Council of State meeting at 9 a.m. today. It is normal practice but McCrory has shunned the media after the meetings just about every time since he took office. He lists no other public events on his calendar today.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. A big day in North Carolina politics ahead. Get the scoop below. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

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